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Painting the Town with @ruiamaral_

For more photos from Rui, follow @ruiamaral_ on Instagram.

“For me, graffiti only exists if it’s illegal, related to activism, education or other social projects,” says São Paulo artist Rui Amaral (@ruiamaral_). Considered one of Brazil’s graffiti pioneers, Rui began his work as a graffiti artist over 40 years ago when he was a young teenager, where local police often chased him off. By the time he was 20, his art became a means of activism. “I started doing graffiti to protest against the social conditions of Brazilians living in a dictatorship,” he says.

Nowadays, Rui has channeled his passion for activism and graffiti into creating one of Latin America’s largest street art murals. The project, found along 23 de Maio (#23demaio) highway in São Paulo, is a combined effort of more than 450 artists and sprawls over 5,000 square meters (53,800 square feet). Rui compares the collaboration of street artists to effortless jazz improvisation: “It’s very common for different artists to meet up without a plan and end up painting a mural together.”

The mural is just the beginning of a larger dream where Rui hopes street art becomes even more integrated into the city. “I want to create a center for urban arts in São Paulo,” says Rui, “with a specialized street art school and library, as well as areas for exhibitions.”

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